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Implementing a Project Management Tool: A Cautionary Tale

Published: May 18, 2017

Author: Anthony Nguyen

Can you say your team operates with great efficiency? Here at 3Q Digital, our Creative Services department is constantly trying to improve. At any given time we’re balancing at least 30 projects across multiple clients (each run by separate account teams that may operate differently from one another). We also handle all internal design needs. If we can obtain efficiency gains with the progression of a project, we can then focus more on the actual work and less on hitting milestones.
We needed a project management tool to help us do this. What we desired from that tool was that it aid in 1. reducing friction; and 2. improving the ability to track project progress.

Through the years, I’ve gained experience with many project management platforms. Unfortunately, I haven’t found one that’s a cure-all out-of-the-box. Why is this? Most have great user experience; these tools aren’t bad and I’m sure they work for some teams. What keeps going wrong? In my opinion, it boils down to adoption and consistency. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you be more successful:
Onboard users onto the tool: A tool is only as good as its users. If the platform doesn’t hit critical mass for adoption, it’s already on its path to failure. How do we avoid this? I find that it’s crucial to assist everyone during the onboarding process so that they have some familiarity before they begin actually using the tool. What we did on the creative team was build out initial project templates, task templates, and user flows to guide everyone on the team as to how they would interact with the platform. We wanted to make sure that anxiety that comes with migration to new platforms would be as low as possible.
Create consistency across users: Next up is consistency. I’ve seen some really nice projects in these tools; on the other hand I’ve seen some that I couldn’t wait to close out of. First, what we want to do is create comfort in the tool by placing content where users expect to find it. Keep in mind that projects may have participants that engage from start to finish but may also have users that jump in and jump out at certain times. Our goal is to set up a project that is empathetic to all types of users. This can be challenging, but once everyone understands the goal, we can usually reach harmony. By leveraging the templates mentioned above, we created consistent spots within a project where designers, account members, project managers, and any other team members can quickly go to to find assets. Before, we would house assets in up to 4-5 different locations which caused issues during hand-offs.
Don’t be afraid to evolve over time: Finally, being able to adapt the process is necessary. No process should be written in stone, and if there’s a better way to collaborate that the greater team agrees upon, try it out and see if it sticks. By constantly iterating, you can yield a more efficient process that allows you to spend less time asking, “Where are we with that?” and more time getting good work out the door.
In conclusion, these tools aren’t one-size-fits-all. They simply can’t be. But if you put in the legwork to mold them to your process upfront, then introduce your team onto a pre-established process and continue to iterate as you go, you will find that your efforts will pay dividends in how efficient your team is able to be moving forward.

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